Twitter and Facebook as legal defense strategy

The legal defense team of George Zimmerman, who faces a second-degree murder charge in the shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida, has started a social media campaign as part of its defense strategy. Attorney Mark O’Mara started using Twitter, Facebook and a website to present Zimmerman’s point of view in the widespread public debate over the case. Craig Johnson interviewed me for CNN Headline News on this latest twist in the widely publicized and controversial case.

The following are excerpts from the article “Zimmerman social media blitz: Risky or about time?” on the website of CNN Headline News:

Marcus Messner, assistant professor at Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Mass Communications and an expert on social media, told HLN Monday that O’Mara’s online strategy, although belated in comparison to that generated by the Martin family, is a smart one.

“In many people’s views, George Zimmerman is guilty, even without a trial. This of course has to do with the circumstances of this case, but also with his side’s communication strategy so far. It’s common practice for lawyers to make public statements in defense of their clients,” Messner said. “Moving them now to social media is a sign of the times. It allows the legal team to present its views without media filters. What has to be seen is how much public support they can gather through social media.”

Martin’s father, Tracy Martin, opened a Twitter account over the weekend, joining the teen’s mother on the micro-blogging site.

“Continuing their conversation through Twitter will help them to keep their supporters involved,” Messner said. “Trayvon’s mother has at this point more than 75,000 followers at her finger tips.”

Please also read the entire article on the website of CNN Headline News.

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